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Embers of Mirrim Review (PS4)

Embers of Mirrim is a 2D platforming game that adds a unique twist: the player can split their character in two for twin-stick traversal. Through this mechanic, players travel through the world to stop an alien threat. Does this mechanic help the game stand out, or does it fall flat?
Embers of Mirrim Review (PS4)

INTRO

In Embers of Mirrim, players control a fantastical creature named Mirrim through the world to get rid of corruption caused by an alien threat. The 2D adventure-platformer puts a slight twist on the expected formula to give players the unique ability of splitting their character into two. This game went under the radar for most gamers, and it is something worth checking out if you are interested in how classic video game genres can get a neat little twist.
 
Embers of Mirrim is available now on Steam, PS4, and Xbox One for $19.99.

STORY

2D platforming games do not really need to have a story, but Creative Bytes Studios decides to give Embers of Mirrim a vague one so you at least have some purpose for what you are doing. In the beginning of the game, these fantastical creatures (it really isn’t explained what they are) are split up into two categories: light and dark. Both sides seem to want nothing to do with each other until an “alien threat” forces them to settle their differences.

When the alien threat hits, these creatures find shelter in The Spire, and in order to stop this alien threat, the Spire fuses a light creature and a dark one together. This creates Mirrim, where Mir represents the light and Rim represents the dark. The goal for Mirrim is to travel through the world (split into seven levels) to find the sources of “Corruption” and eradicate them.

While there is a basic story that is just about as in-depth as the all-time great platforming games like Super Mario Bros., Embers of Mirrim does a subpar job of explaining what is actually going on. With the explicit choice to avoid dialogue, the cutscenes in between levels just make it seem like the creatures are walking without much of a purpose. 

Throughout the world, several of Mirrim’s “followers” are spread out in optional locations. If you find all of these followers, you unlock a different ending than if you don’t. However, there is no way the player would know this without looking up information about the game, and since the story isn’t very well executed anyway, the alternate ending isn’t something players should search every nook and cranny to unlock.

GAMEPLAY

Embers of Mirrim takes the basic platforming mechanics of running and jumping to add a couple interesting mechanics. When it comes to basic maneuvering, players can glide to either land on platforms far away or avoid a potentially fatal mistake. The second and far more interesting mechanic gives players the ability to split Mirrim into two “embers” (giving the game its title, of course).

 Embers of Mirrim Review (PS4) - Players Split into green and purple embers

The splitting mechanic turns the one creature into two floating spheres: one green, one purple. Each ember is controlled by an analog stick, and they can only interact with object and areas that are their own color. Since you can only activate the embers for a couple seconds at a time before falling, interacting with the right objects is vital to recharge how long the embers are present for.

While traversing the world, there are other creatures that the player can interact with. Several of these creatures are introduced to the player throughout the game, and they affect how Mirrim travels through the level. The trick with these creatures is that depending on which ember you use to interact with them, the creatures will respond differently. This leads to puzzles that aren’t too challenging, but they force the player to think about what ember combinations are necessary to get moving to the next section.

One aspect of the game that is perhaps more frustrating than any other is the camera. There are times where the camera is in a good spot so that the player can see where to go next, but there are a lot of times where that isn’t the case. In some cases, jumping to the next platform just has to be instinct or a really good guess. In other cases, poor camera positioning can lead to mistimed jumps (the opening portions of the game are particularly bad with this) or constantly dying from obstacles or enemies.

The use of the twin-stick split ember mechanic is what truly makes this game stand out, preventing it from being completely passable. While the standard platforming is nothing to write home about, the embers provide a fun and challenging variety of ways to get around the environment. Embers of Mirrim is a good example of how to implement this mechanic, while games like Entwined that were solely focused on this mechanic fell flat.

GRAPHICS & AUDIO

When you take your first look at Embers of Mirrim, you will immediately notice that it is not a AAA game. Not that that’s a bad thing, but unfortunately, the cutscenes have a little lack of polish to them. The graphics are tolerable and the animations are a little janky at times, but they do a good enough job to show basic character and environment design.a AAA game. Not that that’s a bad thing, but unfortunately, the cutscenes have a little lack of polish to them. The graphics are tolerable and the animations are a little janky at times, but they do a good enough job to show basic character and environment design.
 
The most detailed graphics in the game come in the form of Mirrim, the controllable creature. In cutscenes, Mirrim is almost always front and center, so of course that was where the attention to detail was going to go. During gameplay sessions, however, Mirrim is such a small object on the screen that those small details meant for cutscenes don’t transfer over.

What Embers of Mirrim suffers from graphically is making Mirrim really stand out from the environment. When the player switches to embers, they are bright, vibrant, and colorful. When it is just Mirrim, the neutral gray-white color tends to blend in with most of the environments, especially when the camera is far away from the action. This makes part of the challenge just finding where Mirrim actually is, and this is most notable when transitioning out of the ember mode.
 
Making the playable character almost “pop” out of the environment is key to fun and accurate platforming. The best example of this is Thomas Was Alone. Thomas Was Alone is known for being incredibly simple. The environment is just black, and the player controls an array of squares and rectangles. The controllable characters don’t need elaborate designs to contribute to good gameplay; their distinct and noticeable colors allow the player to know where their character is while also being able to look ahead.

Embers of Mirrim Review (PS4) - one of the few unique environments
A lack of “pop” can also be used to describe the environments. Aside from an area with a big waterfall or another where you ride a giant whale/snake-like creature, everything seems to be pretty much the same. A lot of rocky or mountainous regions with slightly different backdrops for each level. This makes the game feel like one short experience with a couple cutscenes in the middle instead of seven separate experiences that each contribute something memorable to the whole adventure.

When it comes to audio, Creative Bytes Studios doesn’t go to elaborate with the sounds, but everything is distinct enough so that the player knows what to expect just by listening to audio cues. The music that plays throughout the levels is impressive as well, with orchestral pieces accompanying the journey that tend to be heard in bigger titles.

Embers of Mirrim Review (PS4) - Cutscenes focus on the fantastical creatures

CONCLUSION

Embers of Mirrim is a game that has so much potential, and it is very close to getting to that next level of “great video games.” The platforming is decent, but most other games have done it just as well, if not better. Graphics and story do nothing to draw players into the game, so it has to rely on the unique mechanic it has going for it: splitting into two embers.

Perhaps in a sequel, all of these ideas and mechanics can turn into something truly worth noting. It is a shame that the game was poorly advertised because even though there it won’t be in any “Game of the Year” discussions, it provided something unique to the platforming genre that could help future 2D adventure platformers.

If you are a fan of platforming games like Rayman or Ori and the Blind Forest, Embers of Mirrim is an enjoyable experience that is worth the money. With seven levels that are about 15-20 minutes each, it is a short experience that provides decent fun. There is so much more fun to be had with these ideas, and hopefully, those ideas will be expanded on in the future.

PROSCONS
+ Splitting mechanic works great– Occasionally frustrating camera
+ Good amount of variety in traversal– Visuals blend together
+ Very generous checkpoints– Could use some more polish
6.8
Fair

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